We asked POPSUGAR Food's video host Brandi Milloy to share her experience as a judge on Guy's Grocery Games (airs Sunday at 8 p.m. on Food Network) and what it's like working with Guy Fieri and his crew. Prepare to be surprised by some of the behind-the-scenes secrets she shares!
If someone were to ask me when I was in college who my favorite chef to watch on TV was, I would have responded Guy Fieri. If you were to ask me that question now? Same answer. I've admired him since the first episode of Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives (or as it is more commonly known now: Triple D). It was the first time I saw someone on TV in the food space that I could truly relate to. He spoke my language and liked the same types of food as me. Every time he tried a delicious new dish, it was like I was right there with him.
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When I was growing up and we'd go on family vacations, my dad would enjoy looking up Triple D spots for us to try. If Guy liked it, we knew we would too! Guy Fieri is absolutely one of the reasons I had the courage to pursue a career in food. To me, he broke so many barriers in the on-camera food industry. And I don't mean just because he looked "different" than your typical celebrity chef. His energy and appreciation for food is infectious. And let me be the first to tell you that he's the same way off camera as he is on camera, but EVEN BETTER!
The first time I was a guest judge on Guy's Grocery Games was also the first time I officially met Guy face to face. They film the show in Santa Rosa, CA, his hometown, a gorgeous city in Sonoma County surrounded by green rolling hills and tons of vineyards. When I arrived to my hotel, there was a handwritten note from Guy with wine and a basket of fruit welcoming me to the show. I get chills just thinking about it. Talk about feeling welcome!
When I arrived to set, I was happy to see all of my favorite treats stocked in the fridge and on the counter. When asked if I had any special treat or food requests, I joked to the production coordinator that I always carry gummy bears in my purse. She thought I was implying I wanted gummy bears, so the first time I showed up on set, they had every gummy bear you could think offer me. It was incredible. Now every time I guest on the show, they joke about my sweet tooth.
Guy is all about the contestants. Before shooting each episode, he goes over the backstory of each contestant with the judges. He reminds everyone that these people have left their families and jobs to be here and some of them have a lot more on the line than others. If you watch the show, you'll notice that Guy will drop hints and helpful suggestions to the chefs while they're competing — that's not "part of the game." That's Guy sincerely wanting each person to do their absolute best to prepare and present really good food.
He Loves His Family
You can tell Guy really loves his family. He has two sons, Hunter and Ryder, and he loves talking about them with the crew. Sometimes his youngest son will visit him on set too.
The Food on the Show
People always ask is the food really good? Absolutely. And considering the obstacles these cooks overcome — I'm constantly impressed. In fact, one of the best mushroom soups I've ever had was on the set of GGG. I've also had a killer steak that would give a steak at Ruth's Chris a run for its money. Being a judge is a big job and can be very difficult. You watch the contestants shopping for their ingredients and cooking in their station and sometimes you just want to yell at them not to forget an ingredient or to make sure they take advantage of the pantry in the station. I love when contestants surprise us. The clock is ticking, they're under a ton of pressure, we're all praying they get food on their plate, and then moments later we are trying their dish for the first time and completely speechless because not only did they pull it off, but it's good. Really good.
The production team that works on GGG is like family. There's no doubt in my mind that the secret sauce to a successful show is not only a great host but a great leader.
Flavortown Market [the grocery store for the show] is massive, and their culinary team works hard to get fresh produce, unique products, and rare foods (like rabbit and uni) stocked and ready for the contestants. And when I say stocked — I mean there's no such thing as a "fake aisle." The shelves have products all the way back. However, since only some of the food gets used, I learned that the show makes a huge positive impact on Sonoma County's community, by donating the extra food to local organizations.